08/05/2002 12:00AM

Two imports yet to make local marks


DEL MAR, Calif. - Two years ago, on different continents, Lord Flasheart and Tapatio were top 3-year-olds. Lord Flasheart was second in the 2000 French Derby. Five months later Tapatio won the Argentine Derby.

On Wednesday, both will try to win their first stakes in the United States in the $75,000 Escondido Handicap at Del Mar.

Run over 1 3/8 miles on turf, the Escondido is restricted to horses who have not won a first-place purse of $60,000 at a mile or over this year.

Lord Flasheart will be favored, following a close third in the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 21.

For much of the Sunset, Lord Flasheart appeared beaten. He was seventh with a quarter-mile remaining, trailing by 5 1/2 lengths, but closed well on the rail to finish a neck behind upset winner Grammarian. Patrick Valenzuela retains the ride on Lord Flasheart, the 118-pound highweight.

The 5-year-old Lord Flasheart is one of two runners trained by Bobby Frankel, who also starts Dance Dreamer. The 4-year-old Dance Dreamer was scratched from an allowance race on Monday in favor of the Escondido.

Lord Flasheart has run four times in this country, with his lone victory in an allowance race at Santa Anita last December.

Tapatio has yet to show his Argentine form in the United States. He has been limited to four starts in the last 18 months because of foot problems.

Following a sixth in the 2001 United Arab Emirates Derby, Tapatio was off for a year. His best finish in three starts this year was a fourth in an allowance race over 1 1/4 miles on turf on June 30.

"He didn't run too badly last time," trainer Ron McAnally said. "He was dead short that day."

Jockey Alex Solis worked Tapatio five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Sunday and will have the mount for the first time on Wednesday.

Tapatio is part of an entry with Homeland, also owned by Gary Tanaka.

Homeland is winless in four starts in this country, but was a Group 3 winner in France last year.

Little Ghazi and Slew the Red also start. Little Ghazi is winless in his last five starts, dating back to an $80,000 claimer at Santa Anita in January. He was second in two allowance races at Hollywood Park.

Slew the Red finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last October, and is winless in four subsequent starts. He was seventh in the Sunset Handicap and is making his Del Mar debut.

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